What is a HEPA filter?
A HEPA filter, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filtration system, is a device that is designed to remove airborne pollutants from the air. The first true HEPA filters were created in the 1930s for use on gas-fired turbines on ships, these proved to be very successful at removing harmful smoke particles. After World War II there was more of an effort to create effective indoor air cleaners that could be used by civilians.
Today, almost every household has some kind of HEPA filtration system whether it’s an air purifier, vacuum cleaner, vacuum sealer, or some other machine with a filtration system built into it. They are usually found in hospitals, airplanes, and other places that require the highest level of air quality.
How do HEPA filters work?
First, let’s look at how common fiberglass filters work, most household vacuums use these as the main filtration system. Fiberglass acts like net trapping particles in its mesh. The larger particles are trapped first followed by progressively smaller particles. When it comes to fine particles, such as mold spores, pollen, dust mite feces, or any particle smaller than 10 microns in diameter, these can pass right through the filter without being captured. Fibers are not able to capture sub-micron-sized particles because they are simply too small for them to latch on to This is why many people with allergies find that certain vacuums actually make their symptoms worse!
Unlike a fiberglass filter, a HEPA filter works by using a series of specially designed matrices with fibers under high pressure to create very small pockets between the fibers. This allows the air to be pushed through but nothing larger than .3 microns can pass through its matrix. This is important because there are many particles that are even smaller than 10 microns and these can cause a wide range of health problems if they enter your respiratory system. Anything from dust mite feces, mold spores, or pollen will have a difficult time passing through this type of filter. Most viruses and bacteria are around 3-5 microns in size so you’ll find these as well. Even some of the smallest viruses will be filtered out, making a HEPA filter a very efficient way to protect yourself from airborne contaminants.
What is the best type of HEPA Filter?
The most important aspect of a true HEPA filter is that it has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 at 1 micron. Anything less than that and you can’t be sure that all fine particles are being captured, some companies may still advertise their filters as having “True-HEPA” or some other name-calling but they don’t have an actual MERV rating.